town in Kunigami district, Okinawa prefecture, Japan
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Asia > East Asia > Japan > Okinawa > Okinawa Island > Northern Okinawa

Northern Okinawa (沖縄北部 Okinawa-hokubu), also known as Yanbaru (やんばる) or Kunigami (国頭), is the northernmost part of Okinawa Island.

Understand edit

 
Map of Northern Okinawa

Northern Okinawa is the wildest, least populated and arguably most beautiful region of Okinawa Island. It consists of the city of Nago (名護) and the villages of Onna (恩納), Kunigami (国頭), Ōgimi (大宜味), Higashi (東), Motobu (本部), Nakijin (今帰仁), Ginoza (宜野座) and Kin (金武). Together with Tokunoshima, Iriomote and Amami Oshima, it was listed as a natural world heritage site by UNESCO in 2021.

Tourist information site edit

Most towns in Northern Okinawa have their own tourist information sites, which are mostly Japanese only, but may include automated translation. Notable ones include Onna, Nago and Motobu.

Get in edit

Route 58 runs the length of Northern Okinawa from Naha through Onna, Nago and all the way to Cape Hedo. If heading from the south to Nago or points beyond, the Okinawa Expressway from Naha is the fastest way to go.

By bus edit

The Okinawa Airport Shuttle runs from Naha airport and the Bus Terminal, running across the length of Onna along Route 58 and further on to Motobu. One-way fares run ¥1400-1600, but some hotels offer free rides if you book in advance.

From Naha bus terminal (across the street from Asahibashi monorail station) you can take the Expressway Route bus No. 111 to Nago. The trip will take about 2 hours and will cost ¥2,040. There will be many stops along the expressway on route. The No. 111 runs all the way from the Naha airport as well and costs ¥2,160.

Get around edit

Okinawa Bus Line 20/120 runs across the western coast its way from Naha to Nago and back, with services every 30-45 minutes between 06:00 and 19:00 or so. There are bus services elsewhere as well, but they're sporadic at best. For anything longer than a weekend trip to a resort, most visitors opt to rent a car instead.

Several islands can be accessed from Motobu, namely the small islands of Sesoko (by bridge) and Minna-jima (by ferry). Both islands are incorporated as part of the Town of Motobu. Ferry service also runs from Motobu Port to Ie-jima.

See edit

  • 1 Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium (沖縄美ら海水族館), 424 Ishikawa, +81 980-48-3748. 08:30-18:30 (last admission 17:30). Part of the Ocean Expo Park, the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium hosts a large tank of 7,500 m³, where large fish including whale sharks and manta rays are kept. This site is very popular among Japanese and it pays off to visit it early in the day to avoid the crowds. ¥1,800.    
  • 2 Busena Marine Park (ブセナ海中公園). 09:00-17:30. Peninsula with an underwater observation tower, and a glass-bottom boat that leaves every 20 minutes. Free shuttle bus that looks like a tram. Boat & tower combo tickets ¥2100/1050 adult/child. Tickets for just the deck or just the boat are available too..
  • 3 Nakijin Castle (今帰仁城, Nakijin Gusuku). These ruins of a Ryukyuan gusuku are part of   UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fortress includes several sacred Utaki groves, reflecting the castle's role as a center of religious activity. It is known for the Hikan cherries which bloom in northern Okinawa between mid-January and early February, providing the first cherry blossoms each year in Japan. The ruins are particularly known for the beautiful view out over the East China Sea, for the impressive grandeur of the castle walls, and for the overall amount of space taken up by the castle grounds.    
  • 4 Nago Pineapple Park (ナゴパイナップルパーク), 1195 Biimata, +81 980 53 3659. 09:00-18:00. Kitschy pineapple-themed park. A short but entertaining ride on an automated golf cart gives you some history about pineapple cultivation, dropping you off in a shopping center where all the products are either pineapple-themed or contain pineapple (or both!) Worth a stop if you're in the area and you like pineapple. Adult (16 years old) ¥850, junior high school (13-15 years old) ¥600, elementary school students ¥450, pre-school children are free, 10% discount for groups of 15 persons of more.
  • 5 Nago Castle Ruins (名護城). Don't expect to find the castle as it was in the 14th century, but enjoy the nice walk to the top of the hill. The park of the Nago castle is on the Top 100 list of cherry tree flower viewing (hanami) spots of Japan, and the only place in the Okinawa prefecture on the list. free.    
  • 6 Omoro Botanical Garden (おもろ植物園, Omoro Shokubutsuen), Ocean Expo Park, 424 Ishikawa. open daily except Thursdays. This garden collects plants that are described in the Omoro Sōshi (おもろそうし), a collection of Okinawan poems and songs. The garden contains about 400 species of salt-resistant plants, including large trees, small trees, shade trees, various garden plants, and herbs. The garden also contains more than 110 wild orchid species, many of them endangered, native to the Ryukyu Islands. Free.    
  • 7 Cape Hedo. Northern-most point of Okinawa Island, beautiful views from high cliffs.
  • 8 Nago Bay. Mid-island on the Western side.
  • 9 Haneji Inland Sea (羽地内海 Hanejinaikai). Enclosed by Yayagi Island and the western peninsula. Beautiful especially at sunset.
 
Hiji Falls
  • 10 Hiji Falls (比地大滝). In the northern part of the island, a 45-minute hike from the visitors center taking you by a river dam, over a suspension bridge, and finally to the falls itself.

Do edit

 
A beach on Minna Island

Northern Okinawa has many great beaches; however, a few of them are reserved for hotel guests only.

  • 1 Minna Island (Minnajima) (水納島). A small but picturesque croissant-shaped island just 15 min from Toguchi Harbor, with good snorkeling and beaches. Ferry ticket ¥1,710/return.    
  • 2 Diamond Beach (ダイヤモンドビーチ) (behind Okashi Goten). The beach itself is nothing special, but the snorkeling here is some of the best on the island, with plenty of fish and vibrant coral. There's a staircase down at the right side of the Okashi Goten shop, but it closes at 18:00 sharp. Free parking.
  • 3 Nabee Beach (ナビービーチ). Public beach nestled between the private hotel beaches. Kayaks, banana boats, snorkeling gear etc for rent. Free parking, showers ¥100.
  • 4 Emerald Beach (エメラルドビーチ) (a short walk from Churaumi Aquarium).
  • 5 Manzamo Beach (万座ビーチ).

Buy edit

  • 1 Okashi Goten (御菓子御殿), Onna. Daily 09:00-18:00. The local franchise of the "Snack Palace" is hard to miss, since there are lurid purple billboards for miles around and it's housed in an extravagant ersatz Okinawan palace. Drop in for purple sweet potato tarts, pastries, cakes, ice cream and more. There's also a restaurant on the second floor with nice views of the bay.

Eat edit

  • 1 Nougeichaya Shikinoaya (農芸茶屋 四季の彩), Kunigami District, Motobu, Izumi, 371-1. W-Su 11:00-19:00, closed M Tu. Delightful cafe is surrounded by nature. While you eat your meal you may choose to sit at a counter overlooking lush mountains. Many handmade shisa decorate the cafe and are for sale.
  • 2 Kinokawa (紀乃川), Kunigami, Motobu, Kenken 603, +81 980-47-5230. 11:00-21:00. Unpretentious Japanese food in a very unpretentious building. The only real reason to climb there is to eat their peanuts tofu, it looks like ice cream and is probably the most delicious form of tofu you'll ever eat. ¥1000.
  • 3 Big Blue Dining, Serakaki. F-W 12:00-22:30. Bar with Okinawan food in the evenings, but the real standout here is the lunchtime taco menu that wouldn't be out of place in LA, serving up 5 types daily on proper handmade tortillas. The fish tacos are particularly tasty, and there's a good selection of hot sauces as well. 3 taco meal ¥1600.
  • 4 Hanamura Soba (花村そば), 1063 Serakaki, Onna. Th-M 11:00-16:00. Don't be put off by the daggy exterior, this little noodle shop is lovely on the inside, with some fine specimens of local ceramics, and has great Okinawan noodles to boot. Their special, Hanamura soba, has both melt-in-your-mouth pork belly and ribs (sōki). ¥800.
  • 5 Paanilani (パニラニ), 698 Serakaki, Onna. Daily 07:00-17:00. A reasonable facsimile of an Hawaiian diner, serving up both sweet and savory pancakes: whipped cream and pineapple jam, bacon and Spam, even fried chicken. If you're really hungry, try the 16-pancake "Diamond Head" stack. Pancakes from ¥1000.
  • 6 Yambaru (やんばる), 1288 Serakaki (opp Hyatt Regency Seragaki). M W-Sa 17:00-22:00. Perennially packed Okinawan eatery specializing in local pork (あぐー agū) dishes, popular with tourists and locals alike. Try their speciality "lard rice" (ラード飯), where you mix a spoonful of pure homemade pig fat into a bowl of piping hot rice with a half-cooked egg, garlic and sauce: sinful but oh so good. ¥2000.
  • 7 Taco Rice Cafe Kijimuna (きじむなぁ), 6092-1 Onna. Daily 11:30-20:00. Fast food eatery specializing in taco rice and their own spin on it, "omu taco", which plops a fluffy omelette on top. 5 basic toppings including a vegetarian bean option, then add on extras like avocado or jalapenos. ¥800.
  • 8 Yukino (ゆきの), 450-8 Miyazato, Nago. Th-Tu 17:00-23:00. The locals come here for the generous tonkatsu pork cutlet sets, but this maze-like local eatery also serves up fresh sushi/sashimi and all your Okinawan favorites. Try the fu champuru. ¥1000.

Drink edit

  • 6 Helios Brewery Factory Tour (ヘリオス酒造工場見学 heriosu shuzō), 405 Kyoda Nago City (Near Kohenzoko Bus stop route No. 120.), +81 980-50-9686. 10:00 - 16:30. All kinds of Awamori (Rice made Shōchū), you can taste several. Reservation required phone or web. free.

Sleep edit

 
The ANA Intercontinental against the blue waters of Manza Bay

Accommodation in Northern Okinawa is heavily geared towards large beach resorts with large pricetags, most of which can be found in the coastal strip between Onna and Nago. Cheaper, more rustic accommodation can be found in the towns, particularly Nago.

  • 1 ANA Intercontinental Manza Beach, 2260 Serakaki, Onna. The white cruise ship bulk of this Bubble-era hotel from the 1980s dominates Manza Bay, but it's kept in the tiptop shape and has dibs on one of the best beaches in Okinawa. ¥30,000+.
  • 2 BEB5 Seragaki, 1860-4 Serakaki, Onna. Mid-range apartment hotel by the swanky Hoshino Resorts chain. Large pool, all rooms have kitchens. No direct beach access, but Manza Beach is a short walk away. ¥19,000+.
  • 3 Hyatt Regency Seragaki Island, 1108 Serakaki, Onna. 343-room resort hotel on its own little private island, connected to the mainland with a causeway. Indoor and outdoor pools with hot tubs, saltwater "lagoon" and two private beaches. Unfortunately the construction of the resort killed off the island's coral, not that you're even allowed to go snorkel since you'll get run over by a boat if you try. ¥33,000+.
  • 4 Kariyushi Beach Resort Ocean Spa (かりゆしビーチリゾート・オーシャンスパ), 国頭郡恩納村名嘉真ヤーシ原2591-1, +81 98-967-8731. Large beach resort and ocean spa at the south of Nago. ¥10,000.
  • 5 Ritz-Carlton Okinawa, 1343-1 Kise. The Ritz-Carlton just might be the most expensive hotel in all Okinawa. Oddly, though, it's nowhere near a beach, instead targeting avid golfers willing to pony up $1000/night. ¥90,000+.

Connect edit

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This region travel guide to Northern Okinawa is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.